Recently as part of my role as a Donkey Welfare Adviser I visited one of our fantastic foster homes to see one of our donkeys Oscar and his companion Cactus. Cactus, as you can see from the photo, is not a donkey but in fact a hinny. A hinny is a cross between a horse or pony father and a donkey mother. This is opposed to that of a mule which is the result of a union between a donkey father and a horse or pony mother. Sometimes hinnies are hard to distinguish from ponies.
Being a hybrid animal means that Cactus has the best of both donkey and pony attributes. He is wonderfully curious and really intelligent, whilst having the speed of a pony and the guile of a donkey! In fact during my visit he was so concerned that I might not give him the attention he so obviously deserved that he put on quite a show for us and actually laid down on the concrete yard beside me and then looked at me as if to say “Hi, here I am! It’s all about me!”
Hinnies and mules are technically infertile as they have an odd number of chromosomes. As donkeys have 62 chromosomes and horses have 64 chromosomes the result of their inter-breeding, a mule or hinny, has 63 chromosomes. This odd number of chromosomes makes it extremely rare for a mule or hinny to breed.
Cactus joined the foster home after Oscar lost his previous companion. They are now very well bonded, and Oscar seems quite content to put up with the antics of his companion.
They have really formed a very close friendship and the two are never far from one and other.